“I spend more time discussing risk and how to limit it than how to achieve investment returns.”
At the end of 2010, Howard Marks’ Oaktree Capital Management was running $82.4B in assets under management (Wikipedia). In May of 2011, he published an excellent risk management book titled “The Most Important Thing – Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor.” The aforementioned quote comes from the Introduction of his book.
I haven’t finished reviewing his book, but what I can tell you about it so far is that many of Marks’ thoughts will resonate with hardcore Risk Managers. Hope is not a risk management process. Neither is targeting returns. Mr. Macro Market doesn’t owe us anything.
“Those who try to simplify investing do their audience a great disservice… successful investing involved thoughtful attention to many areas simultaneously… unfortunately the limitations of language force me to take one topic at a time.” (Marks, Introduction).
At Hedgeye, we call this being:
A) Multi-factor (Countries, Currencies, Commodities, Companies, etc.)
B) Multi-duration (TRADE, TREND, and TAIL)
This process, as Marks would undoubtedly support, is “my own approach.” And the only way to prove it out is by executing it out loud, every day, in front of you. “Experience is what you got when you didn’t get what you wanted.” (Marks, Introduction)
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
When I can, I like to start the week off with where prices and my positioning ended in the week prior. In the Hedgeye Portfolio (LONGS minus SHORTS) we are still positioned net short (8 LONGS, 9 SHORTS). In the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model (different risk management product than the LONG/SHORT Portfolio), we maintain very low gross exposure to most things inversely correlated to US Dollars:
- Cash = 73% (up from 70% at the start of last week)
- Fixed Income = 15% (US Treasury Flattener and Corporate Bonds – FLAT and LQD)
- International Currencies = 12% (US Dollar – UUP)
- US Equities = 0%
- International Equities = 0%
- Commodities = 0%
In other words, with markets around the world making new lows, we raised Cash last week – we didn’t “invest” it. That’s what we call limiting proactively predictable risk. From a Risk Factoring perspective, if our model across Countries, Currencies, Commodities, Companies, etc. told us to do otherwise, we would have.
From a Duration Risk perspective, Global Equity and Commodity markets are virtually all broken across all 3 of our core risk management durations (TRADE, TREND, and TAIL). That’s just not good. And we don’t buy things on “valuation” until price, volume, and volatility signals confirm that the valuation we are considering implies numbers that are within the stratosphere of reasonable expectations.
Do the 3 positions we’ve allocated assets to (UUP, FLAT, and LQD) uphold reasonable expectations?
- US Dollar (UUP) – Yes. The US Dollar was up a monster +6% for the month of September, outperforming pretty much everything Global Macro by pretty much a country mile (US Treasuries were up +1.5-2% for the month). The USD is now in a Bullish Formation (bullish TRADE, TREND, and TAIL) and what’s bad for Greek storytelling this morning is good for US Dollars.
- US Treasury Flattener (FLAT) – Is the Growth Slowing trade still one of the best calls of 2011? Yep. We’ve been long a Flattener since February 2011 as a means of expressing this view and that the Yield Curve would continue to compress as the long-end of the curve chased growth expectations lower. Bernanke’s Twist only perpetuates this compression.
- Corporate Bonds (LQD) – American corporate cash balances are cyclically high. Agreed. But, if growth continues to slow, and FX benefits (weak USD) become headwinds (strong USD), they’ll need that cash to buy back stock (Berkshire Hathaway). So… we ladies and gentlemen of Hedgeye would prefer to own corporate bonds than stocks at these prices (unless it’s our own stock).
At a price, will Global Equities be attractive? Obviously yes. But bottoms are processes, not points. And if the most recent month, quarter, and year-to-date in 2011 have anything to say about where to next, the leading of leading indicators (US Stocks) have not started to bottom out yet:
- September: SP500 and Russell2000 down -7.2% and -11.4%, respectively.
- Q3 2011 (A): SP500 and Russell2000 down -14.3% and -22.1%, respectively.
- Year-to-date (2011): SP500 and Russell2000 down -10.0% and -17.8%, respectively.
If anything, the accelerating feature of these prices (on the downside) in the face of accelerating volatility (on the upside) on both the TRADE (3 weeks or less) and TREND (3 months or more) durations only heightens the risk of the US stock market maintaining its already broken long-term TAIL (1266 resistance).
Remember, “the most important thing” about Big Government Intervention in your lives is that it A) shortens economic cycles and B) amplifies market volatility. You definitely want to be focused on Limiting That Risk.
My immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil, Germany’s DAX, and the SP500 are now $1, $77.47-82.19, 5098-5439, and 1113-1157, respectively.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer